iLLBliss sticks to comfortable turf on 'IllyZilla' with Teck Zilla
The rapper and producer project is one that has sharpened the edges in the hip-hop circle and IllyZilla finds iLLBliss rapping again with the thirst of a man with something to prove.
The careers of Illy, a former member of the rap group Thorobreds and TeckZilla, who is part of the Str8Buttah family goes as far back at the early years of the Nigerian rap scene itself.
But while their fellow crew members have mostly fallen by the way or jumped the ship into other ventures, the duo have remained resilient, authentic in their sound and consistent in their output.
To iLLBliss there are five solo albums to his name and a sixth one on the way while Teck has projects like ''Son of Sade'' and the ''Fela Kuti/Ginger Baker LP'' and has worked with every serious Hip-Hop name in the industry.
With all the talk surrounding how Nigerian rappers have failed to actually 'rap' in the past few years, iLLBliss has his sights on 'fixing' that and together with Teck, the duo harmoniously reinforce the fact that they do not need to succumb to industry rules to make a statement.
The album opens with the words ''Show dem say we no be mates'' on 'Be Great', as he smoothly launches a lyrical onslaught on this laid back beat, going ahead to take his place in between his inspirations, ''Royce and Nas Esco'', a great company to keep.
Illy has always been about the Boss talk and the opening track once again is a pointer to where he sits among his contemporaries.
As I listened to the follow-up track, 'We Are Not Mates,' I flashed back at my recent interview with him when I asked him if he felt he was getting the respect he deserved in the industry and in that long pause he took before answering the question, the anger and authority he breathed into this song made perfect sense.
Bliss has always insisted we ''shook him with two hands'' and he reiterated this as he demands his respect while taking listeners on a journey of his beginnings and sharing the template of how he has been able to become successful in the game.
''Follow my heart until the very last breath, on the flip side, follow my senses and drop club bangers, handle my business, strike a f***ing balance,'' he rhymes.
The added vocal sample of the late rap great, Notorious B.I.G's ''untouchable, uncrushable'' makes this an instant favorite for me.
The second verse is told from a place of irritation, that elderly man who for long doesn't get listened to is back to vent and make sure he is heard, ''Over 15 years, I've been on my hustle... mentality stay boujee, but the hustle gully.''
He is the OG handing out free industry secrets on 'Don' with vocal support from Phlow on the hook and when he arrogantly stated ''God forbid a nigga die poor'', I couldn't help but scream 'Amen' and the flipped beat on this straight took me on a 90's hip-hop classic track time travel.
The beat on 'Queen' has an atmospheric soul feel that would have you doing the two steps as Illy shows that even the dons have a soft side, dedicating his verses to his wife.
The past year has seen the rapper's personality heavily highlighted with his role in the movie, ''King Of Boys'' where he plays the character 'Odogwu Malay' and he references this part of him on 'Lead or Follow' where he makes a clarion call to rappers to start rapping again.
His flow on this is good as he glides through the beat effortlessly, ''Stuck in my ways, I never let the game get to me/Getting sweeter with age, these f**ks don't deserve the best of me.''
He uses M.I's vocal explaining his controversial single, 'YRSFUYL' in an interview with VJ Adams to further push his message home while showing some bit of resentment for the younger generation of rappers on the second verse.
The tape fades with 'The Synergy', another track that stays true to the ideology through which the project was created.
Even though Illy belongs to the ''old school/staunch purist'' type grounded rapper, he has never been your typical Boom-bap person.
He understands the place of flexibility and genre-infusing when needed but on IllyZilla, Illy's thoughts is not seeking any form of mainstream appeal or new fans, he is here to do what he knows how to do best, and that is rap, and aided by Teck Zilla, the result is this intensively and well weaved collaborative album.
Illy feels like a front man once again, there is a substance to his flow, rising above the 'album' sounds and absorbing himself into the serious mix-tape mode.
The genuine chemistry evident between himself and Teckzilla is also notable, with the latter producing polished rap beats that allows his verses and lines to really sizzle without being overshadowed or competitive.
Keeping it at just six tracks is one decision that works gloriously in their favor, cause irrespective of how well he sounds, hearing a rapper brag or come off cocky has its ambit and 16 minutes seems like the perfect length.
This is Illy's lane, the Arsenal fan has returned to his most comfortable turf, the album title is as deliberate as it sounds, ''IllyZilla'', two heavyweights standing in the center of the city towering above the noise and beating their chests to their own drums.
Ultimately, for the few criticisms that comes his way, iLLBliss is on a winning streak with his well-rounded projects and on IllyZilla, he again caters to his fans with solid lyrical content, brilliantly integrated to keep this interesting and enjoyable all through.
LISTEN TO ILLYZILLA HERE
1 - Dull
2 - Boring
2.5 - Average
3 - Worth Checking Out
3.5 - Hot
4 - Smoking Hot
4.5 - Amazing
5 - Perfection
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